New podcasts seem to pop up on listening platforms every day, but there are an exclusive few that have been around since before the trend picked up over the last few years. One of those is “Stuff You Should Know,” which has been available to listeners for over a decade, with its first episode having aired on April 17, 2008. It’s safe to say one of the show’s hosts, Josh Clark, has plenty of experience in the podcasting game.
“Stuff You Should Know,” a podcast by iHeartRadio and HowStuffWorks, is hosted by Clark and Chuck Bryant. Clark and Bryant frequently dive into different topics, with episode titles ranging from “How Guide Dogs Work” to their two-part “History of the Trail of Tears.” With 10 years of two new episodes per week, it’s an understatement to say that there are plenty of topics for listeners to choose from.
Further, listeners will rarely be left with questions on any given topic, as Clark and Bryant conduct extensive research in preparation for each episode.
“The cool thing is that research takes you off on entirely different tangents. So we’re going off on choose-your-own-adventure tracks, Chuck and I, that are usually totally different,” Clark said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “When you put us together, you get a pretty full picture of the topic that we’re talking about. We get to go down the rabbit hole a couple times each week while researching, which is pretty fun work.”
For Clark, the curiosity that leads him down those rabbit holes eventually led him to a second podcast. “The End of the World with Josh Clark,” also by iHeartRadio, just wrapped its 10-episode series. As the title suggests, the show explores the very real dangers that could possibly lead to the end of the world within the next 200 years.
It focuses on existential risks, which are threats catastrophic enough to wipe out humanity. Clark was inspired by a philosopher at Oxford University named Nick Bostrom, who has dedicated his career to studying existential risks.
“I originally wanted to make a podcast like, ‘Look at how cool this is!’ But I started to interview some of these people, including Nick Bostrom, and it hit me, almost like a lightning bolt at one point: ‘Wait, this is all real,’” Clark said. “These people are actually warning humanity about our impending doom. And even more than that they’ve got science to back it up.”
Upon this realization, the podcast took on a different, more serious tone than Clark initially planned.
“It almost took on this crusade mentality where I felt like the purpose of the series was to warn people about this,” Clark said.
And the response, so far, has mirrored what Clark intended.
“People started saying, ‘We want to know more,’ (which) was expanded further by people saying, ‘What can we do?’” Clark said. “To get that kind of response from people, it really showed that exactly what I was trying to do worked.”
The podcast has been successful, though Clark didn’t initially expect it to be. Despite being a part of a podcast that has thrived for ten years and is still going strong, Clark was still nervous to move forward with something new. With a different format and tone, as well as no co-host, “The End of the World” was not guaranteed to work out as well as “Stuff You Should Know.”
“I was really nervous because it’s such a departure from ‘Stuff You Should Know’ and it’s just me — people love me and Chuck together. I realized I was putting myself out there and I was a little anxious about that,” Clark said. “But it was extraordinarily satisfying. (When) I heard the end of Episode 9 and it was exactly like I wanted it to be, it was one of the better feelings I’ve ever had in my life.”
With two successful podcasts now under his belt, Clark is moving right alongside the growing magnetism of podcasts within people’s everyday lives. “Stuff You Should Know” isn’t going anywhere and Clark believes podcasts aren’t either. And he credits that to a certain unique quality that podcasts hold.
“Podcasting is way more intimate and connected than I think any other medium is,” Clark said. “And that really comes through in our live shows (when we) get to meet people who have known (us) for ten years. It’s very difficult not to think, I really like this person. Because they already feel connected to you so much. I can’t imagine that any other medium has that benefit.”
Clark’s podcasts display not only the connection between podcaster and listener, but the range of endless topics that are simply waiting to be discussed. Podcast enthusiasts, as well as those who will inevitably join the wave, have much to look forward to, whether it be a show about the world’s end or one that explores all that we should know.
Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].